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European Commission - Fact Sheet

Frequently asked questions : Stronger action at EU level to better tackle violent radicalisation

Brussels, 14 June 2016

The European Commission has today presented a series of measures to support Member States in their efforts to prevent and fight radicalisation leading to violent extremism and terrorism.

This initiative is part of the Commission's work under the European Agenda on Security adopted in April 2015 and towards achieving an effective and genuine EU Security Union. The Communication presented today includes initiatives in several policy areas, from boosting research to help better understand the radicalisation phenomenon, to preventing its manifestations through education, to tackling it on the Internet and in prisons, to how we can strengthen cooperation with third countries facing similar challenges.

What is the added value of EU action in the fight against radicalisation leading to violent extremism?

The recent terrorist attacks in Europe have once again underlined the urgent need to tackle radicalisation leading to violent extremism and terrorism. The majority of the terrorist suspects implicated in those attacks were European citizens, born and raised in EU Member States, who were radicalised and turned against their fellow citizens to commit atrocities. Preventing radicalisation is a central part of the fight against terrorism, as highlighted in the European Agenda on Security.

Actions countering radicalisation take place mainly on the ground, at local but also regional or national levels, and fall primarily within the competences of the Member States. Local actors such as teachers, youth and social workers, community leaders, psychologists, NGOs, think-tanks, community police, prison and probation officers as well as representatives of local authorities are usually best placed to prevent and detect radicalisation both in the short term and the long term. At the same time, the process of violent radicalisation has important transnational implications which require a more coordinated approach and support from the European level. To support Member States in their efforts, the Commission will primarily mobilise its policy and funding instruments as well as European networks. Most actions in the Communication will be implemented in close collaboration with the Member States.

What are the root causes of radicalisation leading to terrorism?

EU research has provided useful comparative results on radicalisation and de-radicalisation processes and on the evolving and complex social context of religions, multiculturalism and political extremism in many Member States. There is a growing consensus that drivers conducive to radicalisation may include a strong sense of alienation, perceived injustice or humiliation reinforced by social marginalisation, xenophobia and discrimination, limited education or employment possibilities, criminality or psychological problems. These factors can be exploited by recruiters who prey on vulnerabilities and grievances through manipulation. Recent developments including the most recent terrorist attacks perpetrated in Europe, but more broadly the large number of EU foreign terrorist fighters, the increasing number of women and children becoming radicalised and recruited by terrorist groups as well as the use of modern communication tools for such purposes, represent new challenges in terms of understanding and addressing the underlying root causes and processes of radicalisation.

What evidence exists already on the phenomenon of radicalisation?

The phenomenon of radicalisation is not new. EU research has provided useful comparative results on radicalisation and de-radicalisation processes among young people and on the evolving and complex social context of religions, multiculturalism and political extremism in many Member States. Several projects on radicalisation were launched under the Seventh Framework Programme for European Research and Technological Development (FP7). In addition, the Commission has included research topics on radicalisation and inclusion in 2016 under its research and development programme Horizon 2020. The fresh evidence generated by these projects will strengthen the capacity of Member States to fine-tune existing policy approaches and develop new policies and practices.

In which areas will the Communication support Members States? What are some examples of concrete actions the Commission will take?

This Communication focuses on how work at EU level can support Member States in meeting this challenge in the following seven specific areas:

(i) Supporting research, evidence building, monitoring and networking

  • For instance, the Commission will increase its research on radicalisation to help Member States fine-tune existing policy approaches and practices.

(ii) Countering terrorist propaganda

  • In the coming months the Commission, Europol, Member States, civil society and industry will put forward a toolbox of targeted actions. This will, for instance, include a Joint Referral Platform to be developed by the internet industry with the contribution of different stakeholders. The aim is to strengthen the referrals process and prevent removed material from being re-uploaded to other platforms.

(iii) Addressing radicalisation in prisons

  • The RAN Centre of Excellence will provide policy recommendations on the prevention of radicalisation for first-line practitioners, covering the prison and probation sector.
  • In addition, the EU will develop education and training programmes in prisons (including vocational training) to ease detainees' reintegration into society.

(iv) Promoting inclusive education and EU common values

  • As one of the actions to achieve this goal, the Commission is making available through Erasmus+ more than € 400 million in 2016 to transnational partnerships to develop innovative policy approaches and practices at grassroots level, prioritising social inclusion, the promotion of common values and intercultural understanding. The Commission will also set up a network to enable visits from local role models – entrepreneurs, sportspeople, as well as formerly radicalised people – to schools, youth centres or sports clubs.

(v) Promoting an inclusive, open and resilient society and reaching out to young people

  • For example, the Commission will continue to work with the European Parliament and the Council towards the adoption of the anti-discrimination directive. It will also enhance its support to youth workers and youth organisations, particularly by developing a toolkit helping them to detect and tackle violent radicalisation.

(vi) The security dimension of addressing radicalisation

  • For instance, the Commission will, by the end of 2016, propose to revise the Schengen Information System to further improve its added value for law enforcement and counter-terrorism purposes.

(vii) The international dimension.

  • The Commission will, for instance, focus the EU's external financial instruments on the prevention of violent radicalisation. It will also set up Erasmus+ Virtual Exchanges between young people from inside and outside the EU, aiming to bring 200,000 of them together through these structured online discussions by 2020 to boost intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding.

How does the EU support projects in the fight against radicalisation?

The fight against radicalisation is multi-dimensional, and there is funding available at EU level from a range of programmes, which can be used for relevant actions, spread across different policy areas.

  1. One source of support are national programmes implemented by EU countries participating in the Internal Security Fund (ISF). For instance, ISF-Police national programmes contain projects related to radicalisation with a total amount of € 314 million for 2014-2020.
  2. The Commission can also support projects on radicalisation through several instruments such as the horizontal ISF-Police for Union actions depending on the scope of the actions foreseen in the project. For these actions, the Commission approves Annual Work Programmes that define the priorities and objectives for each year, including the priorities for the calls for proposals.
  3. Another source of financial support is Erasmus+, the EU education and training programme. As of 2016, priority is given to actions and projects that foster inclusion and promote fundamental values, echoing the objectives of the Paris Declaration of March 2015. As a result, € 400 million is now available to develop new policies and projects supporting these priorities, and an additional € 13 million will be spent on helping to spread and scale up grassroots initiatives.  
  4. Finally, the European Structural and Investment Funds implemented at national or regional level can be mobilised. From 2014 to 2020, € 25.6 billion will go directly towards fostering the social inclusion of disadvantaged groups, for instance through tailor-made training programmes and social support schemes. In addition, more than € 8 billion will be used to help schools address early school leaving and increase access to quality education for all, for instance through adapting school curricula, teacher education courses and individual support to disadvantaged learners.

What is the Radicalisation Awareness Network Centre of Excellence?

In October 2015, the Commission launched the RAN Centre of Excellence to support the work of the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), now connecting over 2,400 front-line practitioners including educators, social workers, community leaders, psychologists, NGOs, think-tanks, community police, prison and probation officers as well as representatives of local authorities. The RAN Centre of Excellence is the European hub and platform to exchange experiences, pool knowledge, identify best practices and develop new initiatives in tackling radicalisation. The aim of the RAN Centre of Excellence is:

(i) to facilitate and enhance the exchange of experiences and cooperation between the relevant stakeholders (inside and outside the EU), in particular through the RAN (network component);

(ii) to support the EU and the Member States to prevent efforts through different support services, practical tools and policy contributions (support component);

and (iii) to consolidate, disseminate and share expertise, best practices and targeted research in the field of preventing radicalisation (knowledge component).

The RAN disposes of different working groups, where a variety of aspects of radicalisation and preventative approaches are discussed and tested:

  • The Communication and Narratives Working Group (RAN C&N)
  • The Education Working Group (RAN EDU)
  • The Youth, Families and Communities Working Group (RAN Y,F&C)
  • The Health and Social Care working group (RAN H&SC)
  • The Local Authorities Working Group (RAN LOCAL)
  • The Prison and Probation Working Group (RAN P&P)
  • The Police and law enforcement working group (RAN POL)
  • The EXIT working group (RAN EXIT)
  • The Remembrance of Victims of Terrorism Working Group (RAN VVT)

What is the S(S)CAT/SCN?

The European Commission will continue to fund the Strategic Communications Advisory Team/Strategic Communications Network. It is foremost about developing and exchanging best practices in the area of strategic communication with a view to preventing and countering terrorist crime and violent extremism. SCAT supports Member States and other actors to tackle national and local communications challenges by creating a vibrant and dynamic network, designed to share and exchange best practices in this area. Activities include practical support and counselling on strategic communications, available to Member States, civil society as well as EU institutions.

How can the Commission support actions in the field of education to prevent violent radicalisation?

Education plays a vital role in promoting social inclusion, transmitting the common values underpinning the EU, fostering intercultural understanding and enhancing critical thinking, thus equipping young people with the necessary skills to make informed choices. This is the spirit of the Paris Declaration onpromoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education, adopted on 17 March 2015 by Education Ministers and Commissioner Navracsics. This text defines common objectives for Member States and calls for EU-level supportive actions. On this basis, the Commission has mobilised its policy and financial tools to help schools, higher education institutions as well as the youth sector to become drivers of change.

Going forward, the Commission will propose a Council Recommendation establishing a policy framework on promoting inclusion and fundamental values through education. The objective will be to support Member States in implementing policy reforms and provide guidance to practitioners on the ground. The framework will build on existing knowledge on what works and help disseminate good practices at EU level.

The EU will continue to support exchanges among teachers and schools through eTwinning to help them learn from each other on how to promote citizenship and fundamental values in the classroom. The online eTwinning platform already connects 300,000 teachers, making it the largest teacher network in the world. eTwinning will be further extended in selected EU Neighbourhood countries to foster intercultural dialogue among teachers and pupils from an early age.

The Commission will establish a network that will enable local role models, such as entrepreneurs, artists and sportspersons, to reach out to schools, youth and sport clubs, as well as prisons, to speak and bond with young people.

The Commission encourages higher education institutions to award credits for volunteering and to develop curricula that combine academic content with civil engagement. Some institutions already allocate credits for volunteering during or following an Erasmus+ stay. The Commission will provide opportunities to share good practices on these topics.

Finally, the RAN Centre of Excellence continues to provide a platform for the exchange of expertise and best practices on how to tackle radicalisation in the educational setting in particular through its working group on education.

How does the EU support those working with young people on the ground ?

Complementing formal education, youth work is a particularly powerful tool to reach out to the most disadvantaged young people. It can help prevent marginalisation, which makes young people more vulnerable to extremist views. Engagement of youth workers is important as part of a broader collaboration with all relevant actors, including educational institutions, community organisations, employers and those closest to young people: their families and friends.

The Commission is supporting this with a specific toolkit for youth workers and educators being developed in close cooperation with Member States. This will include practical guidance, methods and case studies for training youth workers and youth organisations to reach out to and work with young people at risk of marginalisation. It will for example include methods to help with detecting violent radicalisation and handling conflicts in a non-violent way. The toolkit is being developed by a dedicated expert group on the contribution of youth work for fostering active citizenship, preventing marginalisation and radicalisation. It will be possible to adapt the tools to the specific local environments and needs.

To bolster the impact of youth work on the ground, the Commission will also strengthen the European Voluntary Service (EVS). Its budget will increase by 15% annually between 2017 and 2020 from € 65 million in 2016. Moreover, priority will be given to projects promoting EU common values and reaching out to disadvantaged people and communities. The Commission will also open the EVS to an even broader range of young people and organisations.

What does the Commission do to counter terrorist propaganda and violent extremism online?

On 3 December 2015, the Commission launched the EU Internet Forum, bringing together Ministers and CEOs of major internet companies and other internet actors. It provides a framework for more efficient cooperation with the industry. The aim is to contribute to (i) reducing accessibility to terrorist material online (removal of content) and (ii) empowering civil society partners to challenge the terrorist narrative (development and dissemination of narratives which counter and challenge that of the extremists, and provide positive alternative narratives). Work is now underway to improve the speed and volume of referrals, and prevent removed material from being re-uploaded elsewhere. For that purpose, the industry with the contribution from other stakeholders is looking into the development of a Joint Referral platform.

Furthermore, the Commission is keen to bring the smaller, newer companies on-board and prevent their platforms from being exploited by terrorist networks. The EU Internet Referral Unit at Europol will play a key role in this process and the Radicalisation Awareness Network, in consultation with the industry and its network of practitioners and civil society partners, is developing a civil society empowerment programme to support the development and dissemination of alternative and counter narratives.

Inits proposal to revise EU audiovisual rules, the Commission aims to ensure that video-sharing platforms be required to take appropriate measures to protect citizens from incitement to violence or hatred. Such measures include for example reporting and flagging. The proposal foresees that the Codes of Conduct developed by the industry are submitted to the Commission, that the European Regulators' Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) may be asked give an opinion on these codes, and that national audiovisual-regulators are empowered to enforce them. The Commission will also broker a new Alliance to better protect children online, as part of its efforts to encourage industry to develop codes of conduct to support the implementation of the proposed update of the EU's audiovisual rules.

How will the Code of Conduct to take down illegal online hate just signed by IT companies help tackle online radicalisation?

Social media is part of the techniques that terrorist groups use to radicalise and then recruit young people. Online incitement to violence often leads to physical threats in real life.

By signing this Code of Conduct on 31 May 2016, the IT companies commit to tackling quickly and efficiently illegal hate speech online. This will include the establishment of internal procedures and staff training to guarantee that the majority of valid notifications for the removal of illegal hate speech are reviewed in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary. IT companies will strengthen their partnerships with civil society organisations who will help flag content that promotes incitement to violence and hateful conduct. The partnership will also support civil society organisations in delivering effective anti-hate campaigns online.

Can the EU do something about radicalisation in prisons?

The European Commission has been working on radicalisation issues for several years, mainly through the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) set up in 2011. RAN is an umbrella network connecting experts and practitioners involved in preventing radicalisation and violent extremism throughout Europe. Its aim is to exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences on countering radicalisation and violent extremism.

In October 2015 Commissioner Jourová convened Justice Ministers to discuss how to improve the criminal justice response to radicalisation in prisons. Council Conclusions on 20 November 2015 called for the exchange of best practices on de-radicalisation in prisons and rehabilitation programmes, training and funding.

The RAN Center of Excellence will enable the exchanges of good practices and help formulate policy recommendations on the prevention of radicalisation for practitioners (from prison staff to prosecutors). Eurojust will facilitate the sharing of information between specialised prosecutors. The Commission will also provide financial support to Member States to develop risk assessment tools to identify radicalised inmates as early as possible. The reintegration of detainees should be facilitated by the development of education and training programmes in prison. The Commission will support Member States in developing rehabilitation programmes for prisoners and the exchange of best practices and policies in the field of the execution of penal sanctions.

What structures and security tools exist at EU level to help prevent radicalisation leading to acts of terrorism?

In addition to measures prohibiting or criminalising activities contributing to radicalisation towards terrorism such as recruitment or the dissemination of terrorist propaganda or hate speech, there are tools and structures in place to facilitate the detection of those suspected of radicalisation and posing a security risk.

For that purpose, it is important that the different security cooperation frameworks and information exchange tools are joined up, strengthened and fully used.

Schengen Information System (SIS) is of particular importance in this regard. It allows, throughout the 29 Schengen states, an accelerated and more targeted information exchange on those suspected of terrorism-related activities for law enforcement authorities, state security services and border guards. SIS can be accessed by every police officer and border guard at each border crossing point with a response time of some seconds. SIS is more than an information exchange platform. It also contains the concrete action to be taken on the spot when the check on a person or an object is carried out. SIS has already been successfully used in many occasions against terrorist suspects. SIS has also proven useful to refuse entrance to Schengen for so-called "extremist preachers". Thanks to the Commission's awareness-raising, today Member States use the Schengen Information System more intensively: there are more than 75,000 alerts for discreet or specific checks at border crossings, a 300% increase compared to the situation in June 2013. The system was searched 3 billion times in 2015 by the competent national authorities, which is a 50% increase compared to the previous year. The Commission will, by the end of 2016, propose to revise the Schengen Information System to further improve its added value for law enforcement and counter-terrorism purposes

Furthermore, the European Counter Terrorism Centre in Europol launched on 1 January 2016, aims is to step up support to Member States fighting terrorism and radicalisation by facilitating coordination and cooperation between national authorities. It should become a central information hub in the fight against terrorism in the EU, including as regards radicalisation risks.

In addition, the Europol Information System (EIS) serves as a central repository of law enforcement data, including the consolidated list of all known or suspected Foreign Terrorism Fighters.

More broadly, there is a need to more proactively exchange relevant information among Member States, and Europol where appropriate, on released convicts suspected of radicalisation or known radical individuals to allow the competent authorities to take appropriate measures against persons representing a high security risk.   

On 6 April 2016, the Commission presented a revised proposal for establishing an Entry/Exit System (EES) as well as the subsequent technical changes to the Schengen Border Code. The EES will strengthen and at the same time speed up border check procedures for non-EU nationals travelling to the EU. The EES will also improve the quality and efficiency of the Schengen Area external border controls, help Member States dealing with ever increasing traveller flows without having to increase accordingly the number of border guards, allow the systematic identification of over-stayers and reinforce internal security and the fight against terrorism and serious crime.

How can the EU address violent extremism beyond the EU borders?

The EU works with the UN, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in their efforts to counter violent extremism, radicalisation and terrorism, for example through continued support through the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and its Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) bodies, like Hedayah, the International Center of Excellence for CVE, and the Global Community and Resilience Engagement Fund (GCERF).

EU action in the international arena follows two complementary approaches. Firstly, when assisting third countries, the EU will support law enforcement and human rights compliant responses that aim to prevent radicalised individuals from committing terrorist acts. Secondly, the EU will step up engagement in preventive action, tackling the root causes of radicalisation that can lead to violent extremism. Where possible, EU support is framed within wider reforms aimed at strengthening security capacities in partner countries since organised crime, smuggling and illicit trafficking as well as weak border management have proven links with violent radicalisation.

The EU is engaging with countries through counterterrorism and targeted and upgraded security dialogues leading to counterterrorism packages and roadmaps. Priority is being given in EU programmes to youth, education and socio-economic development. Preventing and countering violent extremism has become a key component of the EU's external counterterrorism activities and has been mainstreamed into development policy bridging the gap between security and development. The EU funded package of "Strengthening Resilience to Violence and Extremism" (STRIVE) activities  has been the precursor to the development of an increasing number of initiatives aimed at identifying drivers for youth extremism, empowering women, promoting community dialogue, strengthening local actors or improving media and education capacities to counter radicalising ideologies. Financial support to civil society will factor in the anti-radicalisation dimension. The EU will further interact with civil society, practitioners and academia, including in partner countries, to deepen its understanding of the driving factors and identify effective responses.


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